Singing songs of hope for besieged spirits

Singing songs of hope for besieged spirits

By: Nick Simmons-Smith

The issue of mental health awareness has been growing steadily over recent years as more and more people – some in the spotlight of Hollywood or in professional sport – have opened up about the causes and effects of depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicidal thoughts.

I myself have felt a greater awareness of mental health issues with the various musicians and artists that I work with throughout the year. It appears that the results of increased social media interaction have enabled people to “tell their story” but also caused them greater anxiety and introspection as they put themselves in the vulnerable position of receiving comments (not always positive, sometimes abusive) on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Salvationists are, of course, not immune to these issues.

It was with this growing awareness of how many people were affected by mental health issues that I wrote a new piece of music for the Southern Territorial Band. “Songs of Hope” was intended to give comfort to those that walk through particularly dark and difficult days. The composition will be performed in Saturday evening’s program on Commissioning Weekend.

As Christians, we are occasionally guilty of simply saying “Jesus is the answer!” in response to someone’s problems. That response is true, but it does not fully empathize with the fact that a person may be fighting a desperate battle that may move them to consider ending their own life – because obstacles seem insurmountable and life itself appears completely overwhelming.

I have met extremely talented, bright, energetic young people who appear to have “it all together” contemplate suicide because of problems at school and home. It’s hard to comprehend this growing phenomenon – but it is real.

The songs featured in this major work include “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand,” “Don’t Despair,” “Cornerstone,” and Joy Webb’s “There Will Be God”:

Man walks alone amidst uncertainty,
Only one thing can still make him strong;
In the pain, in the doubt, in the loneliness,
In the struggle of right against wrong;
Somewhere amidst the confusion,
There will be hope, there will be love,
There will be God.

On the two occasions that the band has performed this piece I have spoken with many people who have been affected by mental health issues, and they have been glad that this piece has brought light to this difficult subject.

I have been affected by suicide in my own family, and even after nearly 30 years I still cannot fully understand how and why certain things happen. We don’t tend to talk about these things very often, which is why I hope this positive – not morose – piece of music will give people renewed hope as they battle their own struggles, and comfort that they are not alone.

“Songs of Hope” starts and finishes with the inspirational words of SASB #550:

There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest
pit, I find the Savior there!
Through present sufferings, future’s fear,
He whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.

Nicholas Simmons-Smith is the territorial music secretary and bandmaster of the Southern Territorial Band.


Known for innovating, some Kroc Centers are renovating

Known for innovating, some Kroc Centers are renovating

By: David Ibata

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Centers across the Southern Territory have been open five to 10 years. So now that everyone knows what a Kroc Center is – and how it best serves its particular community – it’s time for some to take hammer and paint brush and freshen things up.

“When the Kroc Centers were being developed, it was all speculation what would be good programming, and what each location’s citizens would want,” said Steven Carpenter, territorial Kroc operations director. “Now that they’ve been open for a while, one can easily determine if people are really using the space for what it was intended. If programs are doing well, how can we expand them?”

Or if some space isn’t working out, how can it be re-purposed?

“We thought it would be a good idea to have full service cafés” Carpenter said. “What we found was that there’s a very slim margin of error allowed in the restaurant industry.”

Put another way – the cafes were losing money.

“The four pillars of a Kroc Center are arts, education, recreation and worship. Cafes are not a critical part of that mission. Five of our Kroc Centers have stopped doing cafes and are reimagining what those areas might be.”

Technology also drives change.

“We’re developing and implementing new membership software that has the ability to use iPads and mobile devices,” Carpenter said. “That frees up having to have everything at a stationary unit or desk for people checking in or signing up for things.”

Here’s how Kroc Centers in Augusta, Georgia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Kerrville, Texas, are responding to changing times.

Cafe too costly to operate? Time to change the menu

The Café on the Canal in Augusta, popular though it was with the general public, “was not a sustainable model for the Kroc Center,” said Captain Philip Canning, Augusta area commander.

The café closed in April 2018. A company that services the center’s vending machines, A&A Vending, suggested a concept it had introduced to employee break rooms and corporate dining rooms: The Micro Market.

“They’re small cafes with prepared food and snack items and drinks, with fresh salads and freshly made sandwiches that individuals can purchase,” Captain Canning said. “Nobody mans the store. It’s all self-serve. You go to a kiosk, scan an item’s bar code, and create your own account or pay directly.”

The Micro Market opened last fall and is one of the first things you see when you enter the building. It takes up about 15 feet of wall space. Upgrades were minimal: more electrical outlets, 220-volt service, a water line for a coffee and hot cocoa machine, and some tables and chairs borrowed from the banquet hall to seat 16 people.

Yes, there have been instances where people walked off without paying. That’s why the Micro Market has security cameras. And at a Kroc Center, everybody knows everyone.

“Shrinkage has been smaller than any of us imagined,” Captain Canning said. “We’re pretty pleased, and so is the vendor. … It’s a win-win situation. We have a food option for people coming into the Kroc Center, and we’re making money instead of losing money.”

Meanwhile, exciting things are happening in Augusta. The U.S. Department of Defense is moving the U.S. Army Cyber Command to Fort Gordon, and affiliated high-tech firms are relocating to the area.

The Kroc Center is on the Augusta Canal, across from two textile mills dating to the late 19th century and closed since the 1990s. They’re notable for the historic chimney of a Civil War-era powder works that once stood on the site. One mill is being turned into a cyber community with more than 100,000 square feet of corporate offices. The other is being turned into a mixed-use, live-work-play development with residences, retailing and restaurants.

“We’re expecting an influx of several thousand workers on a daily basis, and the Kroc Center is the closest thing to them,” Captain Canning said. “That will offer opportunities for us to form partnerships with them to use our facilities, generate additional revenues and help us to fulfill our mission.”

Possibly the next big capital project: A footbridge to make it more convenient to cross the canal from the mills to the Kroc. That’s likely to be a public investment by the city or county. “We have seen the schematics for it … but it’s kind of last priority right now,” Captain Canning said.

Reallocating space better serves families and children

The Kroc Center in Memphis is spending $250,000 on the first and second levels of its AutoZone Challenge Center to better accommodate children and family programs, while also updating its front desk space, known as the Welcome Center. “This is totally in response to community demand,” said Cleo Griffin, executive director.

The AutoZone Center, sponsored by its namesake auto parts firm, will become the hub of the Child Reach after-school program for youth 10 to 17 years – a much-appreciated service, as there are two schools next door. It also will house Child Watch, a drop-in benefit for members with kids three months to nine years old; children can stay up to two hours a day in a safe, supervised setting while Mom or Dad work out.

“What’s different about our Kroc Center is our worship department is over these operational areas, so they’re also home to summer camp and Bible Study camp,” Griffin said. There are 180 youngsters in the after-school program, 50 to 60 children per shift in Child Watch, and 600 to 700 day campers per session in the summer.

“We’re re-purposing the space to make more room for our worship, after-school and youth programming,” Griffin said. “There’s been demand for more square footage for these programs really since we opened. We’ve finally put ourselves in a position where we can make an investment into reallocating space to give these programs the square footage they need to continue to grow.”

Child Watch check-in and services will be on the first floor of the Challenge Center; and Kroc Reach check-in and services, on the second floor. (The third floor of the Challenge Center remains an adult work-out area with cardio and group training stations for extended fitness programs.) The Welcome Center, meanwhile, will be redone with multiple transaction stations, including two self-service kiosks.

“We’re getting new furniture and basically trying to create an area that’s more comfortable, and that gives members and potential members more transactional options … where people can sign up for memberships, swim lessons, or camp or youth basketball or soccer leagues,” Griffin said.

Playing to your strengths: Water park gets new slide

The outdoor water park has always been one of the more popular features of the Kroc Center in Kerrville. It offers two heated pools, a shallow water park play area for young children, and for older swimmers, high tower water slides – the original open slide, and a new, even larger, enclosed one.

“After eight years, our community has seen a lot of what we’ve done, and it was time to give them something new,” said Molly Putman, director of operations for the Kerrville Kroc. “It was time to update our outdoor aquatic park.”

The new slide is a bright blue and neon green, stands 19½ feet tall and 97½ feet long, and has water flowing inside at a rate of 300 to 500 gallons of water a minute. Space had been reserved for a second slide since the water park was built, and plumbing was already in place.

It was part of some $180,000 in capital upgrades completed last year. The original water slide was resurfaced and repainted from red to blue. Two giant ceiling fans, 12 feet in diameter, were installed in the fitness center to improve air circulation and reduce summer cooling costs.

Also, The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club at the Kroc got a permanent sign-in space. “Before, they had a table in the hallway,” Putnam said. “We cut a hole in an existing wall and created an enclosed front desk in a former coat closet.”

Additionally, Kerrville updated its audio-visual systems with new digital projectors, screens and flat-panel televisions. Putnam said, “We’re seeing some increase in rental revenues because we’re able to meet the needs of presenters and groups coming in. We can now accommodate HDMI and Mac computers, which we had trouble accommodating before; technology has changed over the years.”

A Lowe’s home improvement center provided a grant to help pay for materials, and 15 of its employees donated their labor to build the Boys & Girls Club desk, picnic tables and backpack racks. Bilbro Systems, an A/V contractor, installed the new audio-visual gear at no cost to the Kroc Center.

All this work is with an eye toward the Kroc Centers’ ultimate mission.

Carpenter said, “With The Salvation Army, what’s most important is that the types of programs offered attract people so you can implement The Salvation Army’s mission of WHY: to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible.”


Appointments Announcement

Appointments Announcement | April 9, 2019

Southern Territorial Leadership announced the following appointments, in a special bulletin released this morning:

Effective June 17

Lt. Colonel Carolee Israel: Divisional Commander – Maryland & West Virginia Division

Lt. Colonel Allan Hofer: Divisional Commander – Arkansas & Oklahoma Division
Lt. Colonel Fiona Hofer: Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries, Director of Officer Development – Arkansas & Oklahoma Division

Lt. Colonel Sheila Lanier: Retiring September 1, 2019

Major Steve Morris: Territorial Secretary for Personnel (effective 9/1/19, with status of “Designate” between 6/17/19 and 8/31/19), with the rank of Lt. Colonel
Major Wendy Morris – Territorial Secretary for Officer Development, with the rank of Lt. Colonel

Major Jim Arrowood: Divisional Commander – North & South Carolinas Division, with the rank of Lt. Colonel
Major Linda Arrowood: Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries, Director of Officer Development – North & South Carolinas Division, with the rank of Lt. Colonel

Major Art Penhale: Divisional Commander – Kentucky & Tennessee Division
Major Ann Penhale: Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries, Director of Officer Development – Kentucky & Tennessee Division

Major Kent Davis: Divisional Commander – Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi Division
Major Melody Davis: Divisional Director of Women’s Ministries, Director of Officer Development – Alabama, Louisiana & Mississippi Division

Majors Lewis & Jacqulyn Reckline: To be announced

Please be in prayer as these officers prepare to take up their new appointment responsibilities.

Issued by Commissioner Willis Howell


SunTrust Banks doing their part to prepare youth for workplace

SunTrust Banks doing their part to prepare youth for workplace

By: David Ibata

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has partnered with the SunTrust Foundation on a nationwide Workforce Development Effectiveness Project, with a $1 million donation to launch the program announced at the Bellwood club of The Salvation Army in Atlanta, Georgia.

The gift, by the charitable giving arm of SunTrust Banks, goes toward a program to give youth the knowledge, skills and experience to be better prepared for the workplace. A ceremonial check was presented March 15 before a crowd of cheering young people.

“We’re here to help you get a job,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of the nationwide Boys & Girls Club. “We’re announcing today a big investment to help you do just that – prepare you to get a job and the skills you need, the things you need to know and have to do to be super successful.”

Stan Little, president of the SunTrust Foundation, said the program aims “to give young people ‘work ready’ skills.”

“You guys are our future,” Little said. “You’re going to work in the 21st century, and you’ll need 21st-century skills.”

The program acknowledges the talent shortage faced by employers worldwide, according to the Boys & Girls Clubs. Many U.S. employers say their greatest needs are people with “soft skills,” such as communications, customer service, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking.

The Salvation Army’s three clubs in metro Atlanta will receive $10,000 from the grant, said Joshua Dickerson, executive director of The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Atlanta.


Albany, Georgia, celebrates 100 years of corps service

Albany, Georgia, celebrates 100 years of corps service

The Salvation Army in Albany, Georgia, celebrated the theme of “A Century of Service” over the March 9-10 weekend as 75 officers, soldiers and friends gathered for the corps’ 100th anniversary in the south Georgia city.

The weekend opened with a Saturday meet and great event coordinated by Harold Boling, advisory board chairman, and board members with the assistance of Lieutenants James and Rebecca Sullivan, corps officers.

The event recognized donors, advisory board members, volunteers and past corps officers. Major Kelly English, who with his wife Angela were 2012-2017 corps officers, gave an inspiring devotional. The RCMS Soaring Eagles Dance Team under the leadership of Yalonda Jackson performed an interpretive dance.

Guests were given an opportunity to tour A Place 4 Hope, the Family Thrift Store and the shelter. A community effort, A Place 4 Hope has a resource center to help people with local services and life skills; computer and telephone access; and showers and a laundry. The shelter is a 40-bed overnight emergency facility for men, women and families.

Sunday’s holiness meeting was the weekend’s highlight. Major Jaci Cotoni, retired, welcomed everyone to the meeting, which began with a procession of officers and soldiers. Participants included Lieutenants Sullivan; Majors Henry and Cheryl Hunter, corps officers 1994-1997, now retired in North Carolina; Major Douglas McClure, who with his wife Major Storm were 2007-2012 officers and are now serving in Dalton, Georgia; and ACSM Lurlene Batten and YPSM Barbara Green, longtime Albany Corps soldiers.

Major Cheryl Hunter led the Soldier’s Covenant Renewal, and Soldier Robert Morris gave his personal testimony. Major Henry Hunter spoke from Psalms 119:1-11 and then guided the congregation in a time of reflection, and the Soaring Eagles performed. An anniversary banquet followed.

According to an anniversary program book, the Albany Corps began in March 1919 when Supply S.H. Dillman began the Army’s work in a building at 515 N. Washington St. The corps moved to Broad Street in 1921, and back to Washington Street in 1927.

Captain and Mrs. James Sipe arrived in 1949 and began assembling land for a new corps location. On Nov. 25, 1951, a building that now houses A Place 4 Hope opened at 308 W. 2nd Ave. The corps’ current address is 304 W. 2nd.


Jesus Theater ministry moving into USA South

Jesus Theater ministry moving into USA South

By: Brad Rowland

For 20 years, The Salvation Army’s Eastern Territory has deployed a “Jesus Theater” initiative with the express goal of saving souls for Christ. In 2018, the Southern Territory offered a full training and implementation for the first time and, in 2019, plans are in the works to expand the ministry.

Katie Luse, a Salvationist from the Eastern Territory, creates an annual resource and serves as the program’s director and trainer. Jesus Theater allows a cast of individuals to come together in what Luse calls “testimony art,” resulting in an immersive experience that can be performed in a variety of venues, including Salvation Army summer camps.

“The Jesus Theater experience is one wherein the cast members themselves encounter the power of God’s story in the rehearsal process,” Luse writes. “They then can become a living testimony on stage through which the power of God is demonstrated with an authentic invitation for others to meet Jesus in similar ways.”

In 2018, three Southern Territory divisions utilized the enterprise in their summer camp programs. The goal is to implement its ministry territory-wide beginning in 2019.

“Our goal is that every division in our territory would catch on to this vision of shamelessly, boldly and courageously preaching the gospel in this way,” said Bethany Farrell, territorial creative arts director. “We want to present the gospel to every young person that comes to every camp, so that every child is given the opportunity to know Jesus Christ on a personal level before they leave; in a way that they can see tangibly and a way that affects their hearts, brains and minds so that they can hide it away in their heart and have it stick with them, more so than other methods might.”

The 2019 EQUIP Youth Leaders Conference in Orlando, Florida, provides individuals with a chance to be trained in the artistic expression. An intensive track is offered as part of the conference, with attendees spending their non-general sessions learning the material with an eye toward a public performance, fulfilling the theory that taking part first-hand is perhaps the best way to fully embrace the material and be able to share it with others in an instructional form.

Though the program’s contents change annually, the mission remains the same. Both the Eastern and Central territories have experienced success in salvation commitments from young people in response to the work.

“We’ve heard from children that experienced Jesus Theater last year and they are still talking about the images,” said Farrell. “It goes well beyond the imagery and the ‘show’ aspect, but deep into the message of following the one true way of Jesus Christ. They’ve filed away the images, and that gives an 8 or 9-year-old a way to understand the difference between following Jesus and following the enemy.”

Though summer camp is the most frequent venue for its deployment, Jesus Theater can also be utilized locally, with previous examples of troupes coming together and putting the program on in corps and community settings. Still, the importance of the overall mission is prevalent, and, despite the artistic elements, Jesus Theater’s goals are singularly focused on ministry.

“It’s just so much more than an artistic program,” Farrell said. “It’s not about putting something on that looks great. Jesus Theater is an opportunity to really cement the message of the gospel into every child’s heart, in a way that they can understand and fully embrace. I think that’s exciting and inspiring.”

Those interested in exploring the training and implementation process can register for the EQUIP Conference at


Father’s influence led North Carolina woman to become faithful Salvation Army supporter

Father’s influence led North Carolina woman to become faithful Salvation Army supporter

By: Anita Sprinkle Roberts

My father taught me to be self-sufficient, to do as much as I could for myself without asking others for help. I was the son he never had, with my own little tools during the week. But only Daddy could tie the sash on my Sunday dress into a beautiful bow. It was his philosophy that each of us enters this world with a “favor bucket” and we must use it wisely; otherwise, we may run out of favors too soon. I like to think of The Salvation Army as a “favor bucket” for anyone in need, whether it be for spiritual help, assistance with groceries or the power bill, or toys for children at Christmas. Each of us can make a difference, no matter how large or small the gift.

Over the years I’ve donated to the Family Store and to the Red Kettles at Christmas. On a cold winter day in early 2006, with the threat of snow and sleet in the air, I passed a fellow walking with a shopping bag of clothing over his shoulder. He had on a t-shirt and a flannel shirt but no jacket to keep out the cold. My first instinct was to take him to Wal-Mart to buy him a warm jacket, but today it is no longer safe to do so. Instead, when I got home, I wrote a check to The Salvation Army, sharing the reason for my gift, and noting that it was in memory of my father Foster C. Sprinkle. Daddy’s nickname was Pluto.

Within just a few days I got the loveliest handwritten thank you note from the commanding officer at the local corps, thanking me for the donation and saying that Daddy must have been a very special person to have raised such a caring daughter. I was so touched by the note that I went to the office and introduced myself. I learned that I could include The Salvation Army in my will and establish an endowment fund in my father’s name. It would benefit our local corps, supporting their operational programs and services and perpetually honor my father’s memory. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to increase the amount designated for the endowment by naming The Salvation Army as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and my bank accounts. I also set up a charitable gift annuity which provides me a small income, and at my death the remainder will also go into the endowment fund. I believe in the work of The Salvation Army, and it pleases me to know that much of what I have will benefit them in the future and will be a lasting legacy in memory of my father.

I encourage everyone to consider including The Salvation Army in their estate planning. Any gift, no matter how large or how small, can help the Army continue Doing the Most Good.

Anita Sprinkle Roberts is a longtime supporter of The Salvation Army and recently became a member of the Shelby, North Carolina, Advisory Board.


Memphis Kroc Center practices addition by subtraction with Aquatics Center

Memphis Kroc Center practices addition by subtraction with Aquatics Center



Neighbors reach out to help after fire in Augusta, Georgia

Neighbors reach out to help after fire in Augusta, Georgia